Ode to Summer

photo by XVNDER BLANK

A Love Letter To Life

I lay beside Rines Hill, a rock climbing spot that’s nestled in the woods about half a mile from the battered dirt road, somewhere in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. I’ve found my balance on a slanted rock, underneath a canopy of trees. I’m definitely not wearing enough clothes for this weather, so the only thing between me and the decaying pine needles is my used, red flannel. I thought it was summer, but it’s actually really brisk out. There’s a chill about the wind that hits right in the chest. In that way, it’s different from a summer breeze. A summer breeze is gentle and caresses you, lifting you up and cooling you down.

There are busy insects, scurrying to and fro, beneath me. I’m a little eerie of them crawling under me. I don’t want them on me. But after a bit, those thoughts stop pestering me, and I become curious. I wonder what their mission is- what their life purpose is. So restless.

As I watch the trees breathe, I notice they move much like my diaphragm. The trunk inhales with strength, and a tenderness that understands what that breath will do to nourish, and exhales with steadiness, pulling the branches and leaves with them. They move so smoothly, in unison and formation. Have I been mimicking them, or are they mimicking me? Well, they’re the reason I’m breathing in the first place, right? I must’ve learned from watching them.

The sun is so kind, shining brightly on my bare skin. I could take a good nap right here. I appreciate his presence. The remembrance of his existence and the gift of light are what gives me the motivation to push through when things are tough. The other day, I decided to sit by the river. It was a beautiful day, barely any clouds. The river rushed over the rocks without hesitation- something I envy about it. Letting go and flowing like that would take a lot of practice for me.

While it was beautiful, watching it gush through the Earth like that reminded me that it has so much unforgiving power. I felt safe, but I was still careful. There was no one else there besides me. I came here because I wanted to tell the water all the things that hurt me to release them. And when I spoke of these things, I felt a deep wound open up. The murk of these memories began to surround me, enveloping me in dust. But as soon as I remembered all that was around me, the sun began beaming harder. It beamed through the dark and through the water until I could see it all clear. And then I came out of it. I was here right now- nothing to worry about. All I had to remember was that light. I’m not alone.

Everything here is quiet. There are no sounds of trucks rustling over the loose rock on the road and no chatter of tourists, just the clatter of carabiners and leaves brushing against each other- but only when the wind blows. I don’t get this kind of silence too often. Although I’ve struggled to connect with myself in the past weeks, this quietness has delivered me back to my body. I imagine my sole existence in the forest without any concerns, no one calling my name in the background. I’m noticing everything for the first time, all over again. The stillness brings me back to being, and I breathe with clarity, instead of fog. Feeling grounded now, I search for the poetry that’s hidden in the back of my throat. The poetry that I’ve stuffed down because I was “too busy” or something. I scrape at it from the bottom of my belly, from where the sun rays have thawed it out. I cough it up onto this page.

We all wait long months for you, Summer. Some of sorrow, some of patience, some of daydreams- others of anticipation and excitement. The sprout that hides under a blanket of snow has popped out of the ground in spring’s uncertainty, only knowing that this is what it’s supposed to do. But all of the sudden, when that first day comes where the temperature has risen enough for a dip in the Atlantic, everything bursts and runs carelessly into the ocean. The sprout is now fully grown, joining the world in its glory, shamelessly. The red squirrels and chipmunks chase each other until they realize they’re tumbling down the hill, out of control of where they will land.

And with the blink of an eye, we are sinking into the empty fields of Goldenrod and tall grass at the tail end of August, pointing out the shapes of the clouds and asking them if they’d tell us the story of the land they’ve crossed. Which lake or stream or ocean or puddle did you emerge from?

I know these moments are fleeting, so I immerse myself fully in the smiles of the people I love. I sip from the bee’s sweet honey and breathe deeply, engulfing myself in the true scent of pine and cedar. I bury my feet in the dirt as if I’m trying to become one of the ferns. Or maybe a mushroom. I look up for as long as I can before my neck starts to hurt, so I can see the silhouette of the mountain in front of its brilliant halo. I listen closely to the crickets before bed, orchestrating their most magnificent pieces. It’s the best music to search for the milky way to. And even if the grass isn’t the greenest, I’ll roll in it anyway and learn plant language well enough to giggle the way the wildflowers do.

The sunset has the same effect as biting into my favorite chocolate bar. Over the beloved ocean, it paints in the same way fireworks do. Violet and baby pink and burnt orange sparks make love to the sky. The waves crash over in pale blue light, mourning the day, but prepared to greet its true love- the moon. Finally, they can be together in undisturbed harmony.

Dawn pours over like molasses over the valley and in through the windows of my bedroom. It gently nudges at the dandelions and whispers to the bees. Wake up. Life begins again. A promise kept, as I wake with my face still stuck to the cotton pillowcase, clinging to the last bit of a dream that felt so very real. I feel the excitement of another warm day, another opportunity to experience something new.

Whether it be a spontaneous adventure or precisely planned trip, I know there will be heartbreak by the end of it. I’ll have to part ways with my wandering feet, settle down for something a little more stable. All the soft tender kisses on my forehead by the butterfly of change will be wasted, or I won’t get to the top of the mountain before the berries rot. But things bloom at the edge of heartbreak too. This is the cycle of life.

I thoughtfully create a collage of memories in my head. These ninety days fly past- are only a fragment of my life, yet so significant and so precious. They are the paradise I fly to and the fuel for my soul.

I stand in front of summer, guarding it from the fangs of fall, who stalks its prey like a hungry mountain lion, and beg for just a little more time. One more dive in the lake before it freezes over, before I watch the hands of the trees fall off. Because I know that by my next breath, the first flake of snow will be falling onto a desolate earth.

And so I leave this here, the leaves fluttering like twinkling stars in the moonlight, as I walk away from the edge of this wall. Grateful and thankful, my feet confess their last words to the moist dirt and auburn and sunflower-yellow leaves. I gift one last joke to the spider and beetle and toss an acorn to the chipmunk. I make notes to myself of all the things I’ll do when I return- how fast I’ll climb. And maybe I’ll build up the courage to speak to the great peregrine falcon. I imagine myself running back to the hill and giving this rock the biggest hug (acknowledging an old friend). I think of how special this all was and how it feels good to enjoy life and truly bask in it. To take the most sultry bites out of this cake while I’m still here.

With more love,

Lia


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